Monday, May 29, 2006

Therapy for Autism (longish)

Time Magazine's May 15, 2006 issue's cover story is on Autism.

We don't subscribe to Time, but I got a copy from Connor's Uncle Otha. This article discusses a few different therapies for working with children with autism.

First off, it explains it's more a spectrum of disability, kind of like cancer. There are all different kinds of cancer, and different severities. Same with autism. Trevor's form, Asperger's Syndrome, wasn't even recognized as a disability for a long time. This type of autism is often called "little Einstein" because the kids are really knowledgeable about their favorite topic. Thomas Edison probably had Asperger's Syndrome.

Although he is very verbal, and has a huge vocabulary, the autism comes in more physical and social ways for Trevor. He is hypersensitive to touch - no tags or seams in his shirts, the waistband of any clothes needs to be loose to the point of about to fall off. He was wearing his pants extra low since he was 3 - long before the fad (stroke of luck that everyone else started doing that!). On the social side, Trevor's tone of voice and how loudly he speaks are often at odds with his actual message. He tends to see most comments made to him as some kind of attack, and reacts in kind. Due to this, people need to know ahead of time he is not intentionally trying to piss them off. I meet with his teachers every year before school starts and keep up weekly emails to make sure he's doing okay in school. But still, at the end of the day, he's okay. He's able to make himself understood, and he can get through school with a minimum of assistance for a kid with a disability. Most of his peers don't even know he has one - in fact, a kid in German class told Diana he was bummed Trevor didn't apply for the exchange program.

Connor is a completely different story. He is the type of kid discussed in the article. Connor's autism is called Language-delayed, or Kanner's Syndrome (Kanner first diagnosed autism and it's traits). Connor's autism was not apparent at first. He seemed to be developing pretty normally, except he didn't talk much. At age two (shortly after his vaccinations), he stopped talking altogether. The few words he'd learned went away and he became more withdrawn.

I still don't remember how I even learned of it, but our Education Services District had an Early Intervention program (age 3 to 5), and I was invited to bring Connor to "Tot Class" when he was still two years old. We'd go a couple of times a week, and he would be prompted to ask for drinks and food at a little snack time. The therapist would play on the floor with him and try to engage him. Looking back, that was using ABA therapy, as well as Floortime - two strategies discussed in the Time article. There wasn't a whole lot of improvement in Connor, and although he did get a little more engaged with the therapist, he never did really talk or try to play with the other child in the room.

After he got too old for Tot Class, I was told he could be evaluated for Early Intervention. This was more like school in that there were routines, he'd ride the bus, and go without me. At the evaluation meeting, I learned not only was Connor Language-delayed autistic, but through comparing his behavior with Trevor, Trevor was probably autistic too! So this was a real double-whammy. But it certainly explained to me the difficulties we had with both boys.

Connor was put on an IFSP (individual family service plan) and Trevor was evaluated by his behavior therapist (since he was having social trouble) and put on an IEP (individualized education plan). Also, Trevor had been kind of a quirky kid, and at 5th grade, the kids were given free hepatitis shots. His social difficulties got a lot stronger after that. We don't vaccinate our boys anymore. Diana has 2 X chromosomes, and she's not affected by the vaccinations. The article doesn't mention this, but there are 4x as many boys as girls with autism. The genetic side of the problem seems to be on the missing leg of the Y chromosome. Both parents need to have the defect for the daughter to be autistic. Also, having the defect won't mean autism automatically - environmental factors (vaccinations, pollution, ???) play a role in autism as well.

I have been to 2 weekend-long conferences on ABA therapy - Applied Behavioral Analysis. The article says this has been around for 20 years. With the upsurge in cases of autism, ABA has become more available - although there are not nearly enough therapists. Because of this, they can charge an arm & a leg to help your kid. I went to the these conferences to learn enough to do therapy with Connor on my own. ABA is based on B.F. Skinner's work with reinforcing behavior. ABA only uses positive reinforcements. You set a task, the child does the task, they get a reinforcer - in Connor's case - Skittles, a tickle, "Good Job!" etc.

I like ABA because the first thing you do is find out the skills the child has or doesn't have. Through observation and testing, you can map out the areas that are deficient, and work to build those up. The model I'm using is set up to get kids to first grade - because once they have the skills of a typical First Grader, they should be able to go from there on their own. The skills are everything from receptive language to toiletting (Connor wore Pull-Ups until age 6).

Once I came back from the conferences, I let the rest of the family know the strategies to work with Connor as much as we could at home. He goes to a regular school, and he is now having his assistant faded for most of the day (she used to be with him the whole time). He starts the day by going to breakfast & then recess on his own, and gets himself to class. This is a far cry from having to wear an orange vest since he was a flight risk when he first started school. Connor is now using more full sentences, vs. two or three-word phases. He has learned to use "I" instead of using his name when talking to others. "I want pancakes" rather than "Connor want pancakes."

This summer I plan to use going swimming as the motivator to have Connor work intensely with me through a book called "Teach Me Language." I'll post more on that later. If you get a chance to read the Time article, it's pretty accurate.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Thank goodness for ebay!

The other day, I mentioned to Diana that she should send a copy of our Visitor's Guide to her exchange partner in Germany. It lists all the hiking trails, interesting community events and other cool stuff about our town. She said she doesn't know how to format the letter.

Me: "You're not writing a letter. You're just mailing her the guide."

Diana: "Yes, I know. I don't know the format for mailing that."

Me: "You mean where to put the main address, return address & stamp?"

Diana: "Yeah."

And it's true! All her correspondence is over the internet, or on the phone. She sees me sending out Christmas cards once a year, and receives birthday cards, etc. herself. But actually mailing something? Especially something that's not a regular letter? She doesn't have a clue.

Flashback 30 years to Carolyn & I at home. My mom said we could use her old typewriter. This thing was from the '50's. If you hit more than 3 or more keys at once, they'd all bunch up at the ribbon.

We had lots of paper, so we'd play boss & secretary. We'd alternate being both. The boss was usually someone in the entertainment industry. An agent, or something like that. We wanted to make up interesting people to write to (and have write back).

First, there would be the applicants for the secretary job. This took the whole morning. The eventual secretary would have to play out all of the applicants, of course. And she'd have to have just one be acceptable, so she'd have to play really awful applicants for the rest - some went as far as writing for the gender question, Sex: M or F - "No way!! Are you kidding? I'm a Virgo!!" (keep in mind, we had to type up all the applications - altho we had some carbon paper, which was what started the whole game in the first place).

Once the boss hired the secretary, she would dictate while the secretary wrote "shorthand" notes. Then the boss would have to wait while the secretary typed the original letter, plus the responses from the movie & TV stars. The boss would usually go and make lunch for herself and the secretary (altho we pretended it was going to a restaurant). Neither Carolyn or I were very good typists at ages 11 and 13.

Being the people we are, we'd usually do our best to crack each other up with the responses from the stars. But hey, we did know how to address an envelope!! And my mom was probably thinking that typewriter was the best toy she'd ever found stashed in the back of her closet.

We also used to play Store. I wanted to learn to make change, so we cut up little circles for change, and made bills. And then we used the carbon paper again to make checkbooks - they didn't have any registers, heh. And everything in our rooms had pricetags on them, for the next time we played.

Our kids today? Well, they sure can type a lot faster. And they don't even have to make up people to answer their questions! Diana was impressed with a typewriter we had, because it printed as you went. But she didn't have a sister to play boss & secretary. Trevor is not up for something like that :)

I guess I'll have to take her on a tour of the Post Office so she can learn how to pack & address a large size envelope or package. I still need to mail Carolyn her Lemon Coolers (whoops - sorry! I haven't seen your check yet...). At least we still have Post Office stations around town we can use. Ebay will keep that alive for at least this decade, ya think?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Hardy, my @$$

I got a couple of nice plants from parents for doing the Talent Show. One was a clematis, which I planted outside along our chain link fence. Clematis like to climb and they have nice, purple flowers.

The other plant was a "hardy" cyclamen. I kill these poor plants every time. I either over or under water them. I should have just put it in the ground in a planter, but it probably would have died there too. *sigh*

I still don't know the rules on cyclamen. I know you're only supposed to water the roots of an African violet. I only give a little water to the aloe vera in the bathroom. Spider plants are great. I have a tough time killing those. But the cyclamen? Dang. It had really nice flowers & new buds coming up & everything.

Bulb plants are my favorites. You bury them outside in the fall, and in the spring, they pop up lovely daffodils, tulips and hyacinth. On the fruit plants, I have strawberries coming ripe now, and soon the blueberries will be ready. There are cherries on my little tree, but only one pear - I just found out I need another pear tree so they can cross-fertilize. Apparently there are not enough pear trees in close proximity. I have room, so it's not a big deal. The apples are coming in on the Gravenstein tree. Last year there were hardly any, so I expect a bumper crop this year. We ALWAYS have blackberries, and I just planted a grapevine, so we'll have to see how that does. Oh, and I put in a tomato plant all by itself. Last year I had 6, and they kind of went crazy. So just one this time.

My indoor plants suffer a lot worse than the outdoor ones. Next time someone gives me a cyclamen, it's going in the planter out front (with the calla lilies and peonies).


Just in case you're interested

I decided to insert a link, in case anyone is interested.
TOPS Clubs
I looked up a review on and this is what they had to say:

TOPS Club, Inc.

(Taking Off Pounds Sensibly)

TOPS is a volunteer led support group organization similar to OA.

Reality: An excellent program. Hard to go wrong with them

I'll bet most diet programs don't get such a positive review :)

Anyhoo - I really, truly believe without my TOPS pals, I would be at least 30-40 pounds heavier than I am now. For me to be a size 10 at age 44 is pretty amazing to me. I was a size 12 to 14 in High School.

Hooray for TOPS!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I guess a lot of us are Artists

Blogger has a cool webring of photo blogs from all around the world. I grabbed this photo from the Vancouver B.C. daily photo site. I've mentioned before I'm hoping to go to the Winter Olympics in '08 there.

Anyhoo, I liked a lot of the sentiment in this little poster - you may have to click on it to make it legible. Stuff like this helps us be good parents, scout leaders, and human beings IMHO. Some of it may be a little *too* artsy for a lot of us :P (I'm gonna have to hold on to the responsible part of me).

Have a great day & celebrate your artistry!

My turn at TOPS

It's my turn tonight to do the program for our TOPS club (Take Off Pounds Sensibly). Since this is a non-profit, the club members sign up for dates to do the program. The only restrictions are they have to be something to motivate or educate in the realm of weight loss, and you can't bring food (without special permission).

So, every time we have a meeting, we start with our Pledge. Then we sing these corny songs that were written long long ago to the tunes of things like "Side By Side" and "Tiny Bubbles." While I can usually find my way thru them, I really don't recognize a lot of these tunes! And I'm 44! We do have members younger than I am, and they don't even remember Tiny Bubbles!

In any case, to help a little with this, I thought I'd write a couple of TOPS songs to music that more people would be familiar with, like "This Land is Your Land," and "Skip to My Lou."

They are incredibly corny, but that's kind of the idea.

So this morning Diana notifies me she's never heard "This Land is Your Land." Either her music teachers weren't doing their job, or that was so 60's, it's no longer politically correct?


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

But could we do it?

I don't generally spend a lot of time on politics. I do what I think is best for me, my family, the country, the planet - not necessarily in that order.

So I collect rainwater to use on my indoor plants. I am a vegetarian to decrease the cost to the planet in water, energy, etc. (you can sustain 16 people on a veggie diet to every one meat eater). I walk or ride a bike when I can, and if I have to drive, I'm combining multiple errands to do a big circuit in one trip. I don't drive my kids around to places they can walk, etc.

Even so, I'm using a lot more resources than, say, a European person.

Diana & I found out when our exchange student comes, we shouldn't be surprised if they only bathe 2x a week. And when they do, we can expect to hear the shower turn off & on, as they save water between getting wet, lathering up and rinsing off. Europeans don't worry about BO. It's a natural part of living and people are used to it. Their idea of being clean is different.

In contrast, we are very anti-septic with our hygiene. Even to the point that our own bodies rebel against us by making things that were only mild annoyances become major allergies now. Think of the looks you'd get, especially if you're a woman, if someone at work could actually smell your armpits!

We have a few places where it's okay to smell natural - but only if you are participating in sports, or maybe camping. The rest of the time, it's Offensive with a capital "O." If you're in an office and you reek, you'll probably have someone talk to you about it.

So, could we even conserve water as much as Europeans? Would we be willing to give up our Charmin for toilet paper that is pretty much the same stuff our schools use for paper towels? Do you see the disparity between our Earth Day celebrations and what the rest of the world is doing? How does turning toilet paper rolls into toys make up for our 20-minute showers?

I think it's great that Diana will be able to experience firsthand a different world view. I wish everyone could.


Girl Scout stuff:

We worked on the Wildlife Interest Patch on Saturday. We had already done a big chunk of it at Camporee, and got to finish it off here.

The girls needed to observe an animal for 20 minutes. I think this monkey spent more time observing them trying to observe him. At least he didn't throw any poo while we were watching...

Of course, this is the obligatory cut-out shot. And we are missing one of our girls. She does Search & Rescue and couldn't be here.

After this we got ice cream & Little Debbie cakes. Then we worked on the Talent Show video. It's still not done, but coming along - that's for the videography interest patch!


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Baby Fun

We got to have baby Benjamin come to play the other day. Diana was with him most of the time.

He really liked the tent and playing Hide & Seek in there with Connor.

He also really likes playing with his yogurt.

It was nice to have Karrie over for a bit. She's coaching for the high school down south, and her kids were competing against ours. I guess they got some personal bests, so that's good in track.

Diana is getting some good time in with babysitting. She has a lot of experience with Connor, and other experience with younger girl scouts (older girls are expected to keep the little ones occupied for the leaders when they are all together - like Camporee). Rocky & Sue get to benefit from this, and Diana gets to earn $$ for her Germany trip. All good!


Friday, May 19, 2006

Joe's profound post

  • profound thought
    Read his post on "Oil" if you haven't already.

    I think he should submit that to Reader's Digest :) It's gotta be worth $50 or something!


    Sunday, May 14, 2006

    Happy Mother's Day

    My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.-Mark Twain

    If you forgot to do something nice for a mom in your life, you can always send a virtual bouquet. My favorite is

    They have real flowers you can ship, but the free cards are neat.

    If you want to send real flowers, you can support autism research with :)

    Have a great day!

    Friday, May 12, 2006

    The worst movie EVER

    Watch the clip on the site. Seriously. Worst Ever.

    Field Trips

    Connor wants to go on a trip. He was already prepared to drive all the way to Canada on my birthday (it was a 2-hour drive to the Oregon Gardens). Right now, though, we have no plans for a trip (there are 22 school days left!).

    We'd do a little weekend jaunt, but Lee's schedule has recently changed, and he's working Saturday & Sunday now. I really don't like taking Connor off somewhere new without Lee's support. Connor has gotten a lot better about not running off, but dang, he moves fast and I'm basically running the entire day.

    Even when we visit family, I need to keep him in sight at all time, since he really isn't safe indoors. He likes being outside best, but again, unless they have a locked yard (no one does but us), Connor can escape too easily.

    So, until we can go somewhere else, I am trying to hang out in the yard with him a lot at home. I am struggling to free my strawberry plants from the weeds (it's coming along) while Connor digs a "dirty volcano" next to me in the veggie patch. Or else he's looking for wormies to put in the compost. Either way, as long as he gets outdoor time, he's not asking so much to visit someone or go on a field trip.

    He will, btw, get to go on one on in June when his class goes roller skating. We will also go to Canada at some point in the summer - depending on Lee's schedule.


    Wednesday, May 10, 2006

    Silly Cookie Costume

    Okay - Cookie sales are over & all, but these were just funny.

    We have Cookie Costumes to borrow from our GS office at booth sale time. I have my teen scouts use them, because it makes them harder to ignore :)

    Girl Scouts sell 8 varieties every year: Thin Mints, Samoas, Do-Si-Dos, Tagalongs, Trefoils & All Abouts are available every year. Then we have a couple that trade out after two years (they alternate years). This year the Cafe Cookies replaced the Double Dutch Chocolate of the previous year. Next year we'll lose the Lemon Coolers in favor of something else.

    Will they FINALLY have a low-sugar/diabetic cookie??? I don't know. With all the various low sugar sweetners out there, you'd think they'd give one a shot. Every 4th customer wants a sugar-free cookie!

    Anyway - about, oh, 6 years ago we had a type of cookie called "Lemon Drop" and this is the costume that went with it. Diana wore it the most, even though kids were thinking she was Sponge Bob. I just had taken shots of Connor in it and wanted to share :)

    Tuesday, May 09, 2006

    Poison Oak vs. Oak

    We have both growing in the backyard. Connor is probably immune by now, simply because he runs out there everywhere, and hasn't shown any signs of a rash. Most of the time he's barefoot & in shorts.

    This was one of those things I had to get really familiar with when we moved here. Poison oak is everywhere. Along trails, in fields, backyards, etc. Pretty much everywhere you go. It's very good to know the difference between one and the other.

    For one thing, poison oak leaves are generally shiny. That's the nasty oil that causes the itch. Regular oak leaves aren't shiny at all. You have to use special oil-stripping soap to get the oil off your skin, and off your clothes. Dish soap works in a pinch, since that strips oils pretty well also.

    Poison oak also grows in groups of three leaves (leaves of three, let them be). The leaves are often mitten-shaped. Poison oak has red shades as well, on leaves and stems. And when they have fruit, they are little white berries.

    So, can you distinguish between one and the other? Can you even see the poison oak in the picture? The regular oak? If you can't, take a guide when you go on Oregon trails!


    Monday, May 08, 2006

    It's Over!

    I survived the Talent Show! This photo is of the girls onstage after the show, while they were waiting to get their prizes.

    We had a total of 20 acts perform, 11 troops and 9 solos. Only the troops were judged.

    From what I heard from audience members, it was a really good show. Of course, that was Lee's parents, and what else are they going to tell me? Lee said the quality of the acts was definately up from the last couple of years (when we didn't have any prizes). I did see a LOT more costumes and choreography than we'd had in the last few years.

    This year we had a lot of solo acts. I liked the length of the show this year, so I would probably have to ditch some solos if more troops decide to participate next year.

    Mostly everything went pretty well on cue for the actual show. The tech kids from the High School did a really good job at keeping up and there wasn't a lot of lag time between acts.

    Two of my girls were EmCees, and they were kind of corny with their jokes, but I think they did a pretty good job of chatting between acts. They tried at one point to interview me, but I said NO THANKS!

    For next year: I'm going to make sure my laptop "talks" to the projector much sooner than 15 minutes before the slide show is supposed to start (we had to reboot and then it was okay).

    I'm going to go ahead and match prizes with troops by size for the judges. It will save time while everyone is waiting for their prizes. If I group the troops & prizes together by size, they only have to match the "better" prize to the best of that size category. As it was, one of the prizes was a shampoo & set at the Beauty College. That went to a group of Brownie scouts who had done a cheer to the Safety Dance song. The leader came to me after the show and asked if we could change the prize. The girls had all been in tears just getting their hair done for the show!! Also, the leader who works for the Umpqua National Forest had gotten us 2 nights of camping. And that's what the judges awarded her troop! So I had those two switch. The Juniors will probably have more fun at the Beauty College, and the Brownies can go camping.

    My own girls won a scrapbooking party and a 3 gallon (Ice cream counter size) tub of Umpqua Ice cream Our local ice cream has won national awards for quality & flavor. It's really good ice cream. So my girls will have to decide what flavor... My favorite is Espresso Madness, but I'm guessing they'll go with Cookie Dough or something like that.

    I still need to go through the evaluations and do the bookkeeping part of this whole thing. I think the ticket sales were enough to cover the expenses. It might be pretty close though. And I need to send Thank You's to all the people who helped out. But I can start that all tomorrow. For now, I'm going to relax a bit. I think I deserve it!

    My troop's "crash through" banner, which worked really well onstage. I didn't get a photo of that though - but it's on video!


    Friday, May 05, 2006

    Still to do...

    We need the pizza certificate from Pizza Schmizza, the Beauty College shampoo & set coupon, and Wildlife Safari. I think I have the rest of the prizes. We can't get Cold Stone Creamery because the guy's printer won't work...

    My own troop needs to work on their act & props today. They will spend the night. One of my 4 girls has mono, and if she's not at school today yet, she's not able to do the show either :( We'll miss her if she can't make it.

    Another troop leaders & some of her girls will come by tonight for dessert & to help stuff bags with instructions, evaluations, & maps; and the prize bags as well, with McDonald's coupons, event patches, and whatever else there was.

    Tomorrow morning Diana & Amanda will work more on the Public Service Announcement, and I will separate prizes and set up how the judges decide who gets what.

    I will collect all the stuff we need for the day of the show, and then I think I'll take a long, hot, destressing bath. I will dose myself with valerian & melatonin and attempt to sleep.

    Sunday at 11:00, they'll let me in the theater. Troops will start arriving at noon for their run thru & directions, at 2:30 we open the doors for the audience and the show starts at 3:00.

    I'll have to let you know how it goes. I'm still breathing, tho my heart rate is a little jumpy.

    I am accepting positive prayers, wishes & vibes - so send them!!! I promise I'll use them!!


    Monday, May 01, 2006

    Talent Show only a week away!

    I think we've got it mostly covered.

    Today is the Service Unit/Leader meeting. I will get the 'day of the show' info to anyone who still doesn't have it. That lets them know what time to show up, to bring lunch for their girls, etc.

    I'm still missing two music CD's, so hopefully those leaders will get me the music tonight as well.

    I should also get all the prizes that have been collected in hand, so I have them all in one place.

    Tomorrow I'll drop off the music with the tech gal at the High School. She can tell me if we need to move any acts around on the program. Right after that, my girls will all be meeting with me at one of the girls' house, where they will finish off the PSA on how to behave in a theater. We can drop off the program to be printed on the way. Two of the girls will need to work on that, while the other two work on their script to be EmCees.

    Wednesday I'll focus on matching prize choices for the judges. I have to give them a selection that goes with the amount of girls in the acts. The companies that give us the prizes decide how many they want to give us. Some are only 4 tickets (Ice Skating), while others give us enough for a large troop (a trip thru the Wildlife Park). Some are in the middle (movies, a shampoo & set at the Beauty College). So if the troop has 12 girls, they will need to select something from the middle group, vs. being able to win the Ice Skating.

    I also need to do a little spreadsheet of choices of catagories for the troops to win under (best chereography, best costumes, best vocals). Most groups will qualify under a couple of choices, so the judges will have to decide which one actually had the best choreography, while the other had better costumes, etc. I'll have to give a set of instructions for the judges so I don't have to spend too much time with them on the day of the show, which is when we'll find out who actually came to judge for us! (I have some secondary choices if necessary).

    I also need a couple of black shirts for Lee & the other dad for "Event Security" purposes.

    Friday I think we'll do a sleepover at my house so the girls can finish their props up and practice their act. They can also help me bag the event patches, evaluations, and any coupons we get. At the show, leaders will fill out an evaluation of the event and then they get their patches & prize.

    The last thing to do is set my schedule for the actual day. What happens when & where & how. I should have enough people to go around, and one great thing about girl scouts is you only have to say "I need help" and a bunch of people jump up.

    After the show, we'll just need to fill in the event budget & read evaluations & make the DVD of the show. That should go pretty fast too. Then I won't have to think about this again until the Fall, and it all starts over again!